Tuesday, July 27, 2021

A Palestinian state would cripple US interests in the region - Yoram Ettinger


by Yoram Ettinger

A wide gap exists between the Palestinian track record, on the one hand, and Washington's well-intentioned two-state-policy on the other.

Would a Palestinian state resolve or exacerbate the Israel-Palestinian conflict?  Would a Palestinian state enhance or erode Middle East stability? Would a focus on the Palestinian issue bolster or cripple the expansion of the Israel-Arab peace process? Would a Palestinian state advance or undermine US interests?

Are these assumptions consistent with the Palestinian track record?

Western red carpet vs. Arab shabby rug

Western governments are preoccupied with contemporary Palestinian diplomacy, according Palestinians red-carpet receptions. They prefer to speculate on future positive Palestinian behavior rather than be preoccupied with the rogue intra-Arab Palestinian track record. They court the Palestinians, while pressuring Israel.

On the other hand, the history-driven Arabs – who neither forget nor forgive – are mindful of the Palestinian track record, and therefore accord Palestinians shabby-rug receptions.  The Arabs have concluded that a Palestinian state would add fuel to the Middle East fire, while valuing Israel as a potent force against rogue entities such as Iran's ayatollahs and the Muslim Brotherhood. Thus, they have expanded commercial and security cooperation with Israel, and refrain from flexing military or substantial financial muscle on behalf of the Palestinians.

In fact, no Arab-Israeli war erupted due to – or on behalf of – the Palestinians, and no Arab countries intervened militarily in Israel's wars against Palestinian terrorism in Lebanon, Judea and Samaria and Gaza.

The intra-Arab Palestinian track record is one of subversion, terrorism and ingratitude. In the mid-1950s and mid-1960s, they were involved in terrorism in Egypt and Syria; in 1970, they triggered a civil war in Jordan, attempting to topple the pro-US Hashemite regime; and in the 1970s they were involved in terrorism and a series of civil wars in Lebanon. In 1990 they collaborated with – and publicly praised – Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, which was the most generous Arab host of 400,000 Palestinians, including Mahmoud Abbas, Yasser Arafat and their families. Hence the expulsion of most Palestinians from Kuwait in the aftermath of the First Gulf War.

Notwithstanding Jordan's talk on behalf of Palestinians, the Hashemite kingdom's military and security forces are aware that a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River would doom the regime east of the River, triggering ripple effects which could topple all pro-US regimes in the Arabian Peninsula, adversely impacting the global oil market and US national security.

In addition, the Palestinian track record features systematic close ties with enemies and adversaries of the United States, such as Nazi Germany, the Soviet Bloc, international terrorist organizations, Iran's Ayatollahs, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, China and Russia.

Land for peace or land for terror?

The 1993 Oslo Accord showered the Palestinians with unprecedented authority, which was not accorded to them by Jordan or Egypt when the two countries occupied Judea, Samaria and Gaza. It established a five-year venue to a Palestinian state. However, instead of land for peace, the relocation of the PLO headquarters from Tunisia, Lebanon, Sudan and Yemen to Judea, Samaria, Gaza and eastern Jerusalem introduced the concept of land for terror and land for hate-education.

Moreover, the 2005 Israeli uprooting of its civilian and military presence from Gaza triggered four Hamas wars and a systematic wave of unprecedented Hamas terrorism.

Furthermore, in November 1947, the United Nations recommended the partitioning of the area west of the Jordan River between Jewish and Arab states, in violation of Article 80 of the 1945 U.N. Charter and the September 1922 League of Nations, which were committed to establishing a Jewish National Home in the entire area. The local Arabs and the surrounding Arab states rejected the 1947 Partition Plan and launched a war to annihilate the Jewish state.

In July 1937, the British Peel Commission recommended the establishment of a Jewish state over 18 percent – and an Arab state over 75 percent – of the area west of the Jordan River. The plan was rejected by the Arabs, who escalated terrorism.

Palestinian vision documented by education curriculum

Notwithstanding Palestinian diplomatic and public relations statements, the most authentic reflection of the Palestinian worldview, vision and territorial goal has been Abbas's K-12 education curriculum, which has become (since 1993) a most effective multiplier of terrorism, suicide bombing and anti-Jewish, anti-Israel and anti-peace fanaticism.

The 2020-2021 school textbooks of the Palestinian Authority highlight anti-Semitism, the repudiation of Jewish history, dehumanization of Jews and the Jewish state and the rejection of peaceful coexistence with Israel. They incite to martyrdom and jihad ("holy war") "in the service of Allah," herald suicide bombers and terrorism in general, glorify women terrorists as role models and promote maps with Israel replaced by an Arab Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

Peaceful-coexistence with Israel?

On the eve of the Sept. 13, 1993, signing of the Oslo Accord on the White House lawn, Arafat told the Jordanian TV that the accord was an interim agreement, consistent with the PLO's June 1974 Phased Plan. The latter legitimized the establishment of a Palestinian beachhead on any part of British Mandate Palestine, as a step toward eliminating the Jewish state and taking over the whole of Palestine.

Abbas and Arafat reiterated the Phased Plan on August 14, 2009; November 16, 1998; January 30, 1996 and May 10, 1994, drawing inspiration from Muhammad's Hudaybiyya Treaty – a major precept of traditional and contemporary Islam and Arab policy-making.

The Hudaybiyya Treaty was concluded between Muhammad and his enemies in Mecca in 628 C.E. While the treaty was perceived by Mecca as a permanent peace, Muhammad considered it to be a temporary truce and a means to achieve the Islamic imperialistic goal. Thus, Muhammad was able to regroup, breach the treaty and overwhelm the misled and tricked enemy. It has become a tactical role model for Muslim leaders, especially when confronting the "infidel."

Contemporarily, the Palestinian vision was codified by the charters of Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah and PLO in 1959 and 1964 – before Israel regained control of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), eastern Jerusalem and Gaza – highlighting the goal "to liberate the whole of Palestine." In other words, the core issue has always been the existence – not the size – of the Jewish state, which is deemed illegitimate in "the abode of Islam."

The Palestinian vision is not driven by despair, but by a commitment "to liberate Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea."

The Palestinian issue and expanding the Israel-Arab peace process

The "Palestine Firsters" – who believe in the centrality of the Palestinian issue in the Middle East – introduced a litany of peace initiatives, which foundered on the rocks of Middle East reality.

At the same time, Israel concluded a series of peace accords with Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and the Sudan, which bypassed the Palestinian issue, avoided the trap of a Palestinian veto and focused on Arab – not Palestinian – interests.

In conclusion

A wide gap exists between the Palestinian track record, on the one hand, and Washington's well-intentioned two-state-policy on the other.

Contrary to the expectations of Washington's policy-makers, Middle East reality documents that a Palestinian state would add another rogue regime to the stormy region, intensify terrorism and war, inflame regional instability, exacerbate the Israel-Palestinian conflict, undermine the expansion of the Israel-Arab peace process, generate a tailwind for rogue entities and cripple US interests.

An Israeli retreat to the pre-1967 8 to 15-mile sliver along the Mediterranean, dominated by the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, would obliterate Israel's posture of deterrence, and would transform Israel from a unique force-multiplier to a strategic liability for the United States, depriving the United States of "the largest US aircraft carrier, which does not require a single American on board."

Reprinted with permission from JNS.org


Yoram Ettinger 

Source: https://www.israelhayom.com/opinions/a-palestinian-state-would-cripple-us-interests-in-the-region/

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Report: Israel warns US 'Iran's crossing of nuclear threshold imminent' - ILH Staff and i24NEWS

by ILH Staff and i24NEWS

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has reportedly said in internal meetings that Iran is in fact accelerating its actions on the nuclear front.

Israel issued a bleak warning to the United States recently, highlighting that Iran is on the verge of becoming a nuclear threshold state, meaning it could begin producing atomic weapons, Kan 11 News reported on Sunday.

Despite the lull in the talks that have taken place over several rounds in Vienna regarding Iran's nuclear program, it does not mean, however, that Tehran's nuclear program is static.

Indeed, several senior Israeli officials, including Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz relayed the message of the Jewish state's concern to their US counterparts Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett supposedly said in internal meetings that Iran is in fact accelerating its actions on the nuclear front, Israel National News reported.

"Something needs to happen regarding the negotiations with Iran. This 'limbo' cannot continue a time when Iran is advancing rapidly to the point where it is a threshold state," a senior diplomat said.

The Islamic republic took the view in 2018 that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was void after former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal, claiming that Iran was in breach of the agreed-upon nuclear thresholds and worries over its ballistic missile program.

Israel has consistently warned the United States and the international community about Iran's atomic ambitions, including Israel Defense Force (IDF) Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi's recent Washington trip to brief US officials, where he torched the plan to return the nuclear deal.


ILH Staff and i24NEWS

Source: https://www.israelhayom.com/2021/07/26/report-israel-warns-us-irans-crossing-of-nuclear-threshold-imminent/

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Will Lebanon Fall into the Hands of Iran? - Khaled Abu Toameh


by Khaled Abu Toameh

There is growing concern among the Lebanese and other Arabs that Iran is planning to exploit the severe political, economic and financial crisis in Lebanon to complete its takeover of the country.

  • There is growing concern among the Lebanese and other Arabs that Iran is planning to exploit the severe political, economic and financial crisis in Lebanon to complete its takeover of the country.

  • Iran already has a political and military presence in Lebanon through its terrorist proxy, Hezbollah. The current crisis, however, is likely to facilitate Iran's mission of adding Lebanon to the list of countries it already occupies: Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

  • "Iran is already very dangerous without a nuclear bomb. The region is witnessing a state of chaos and agitation by fundamentalist forces, which threaten all Arab countries without exception." — Mishary Dhayidi, Saudi writer, Al-Arabiya, July 21, 2021

  • The Arabs appear clearly worried about the perceived apathy of the US and other Western powers towards Iran's scheme to extend its control to Lebanon. They seem particularly alarmed that Lebanon will meet the same fate as Iraq, Syria and Yemen.... thanks to Iran's continuous efforts to export terrorism and the "Islamic Revolution" to the Arab countries.

  • [T]he mullahs in Tehran are doubly dangerous: they aspire not only to develop nuclear weapons, but also to occupy Arab states.

There is growing concern among the Lebanese and other Arabs that Iran is planning to exploit the severe political, economic and financial crisis in Lebanon to complete its takeover of the country. Iran already has a political and military presence in Lebanon through its terrorist proxy, Hezbollah. Pictured: Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with Hassan Nasrallah, head of Hezbollah. (Image source: khamenei.ir)

There is growing concern among the Lebanese and other Arabs that Iran is planning to exploit the severe political, economic and financial crisis in Lebanon to complete its takeover of the country.

Iran already has a political and military presence in Lebanon through its terrorist proxy, Hezbollah. The current crisis, however, is likely to facilitate Iran's mission of adding Lebanon to the list of countries it already occupies: Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

For several weeks now, the hashtag "# Lebanon is Collapsing" has been trending on various social media platforms, including Twitter. Many Lebanese and Arabs are using this hashtag to describe the dire economic and financial situation in Lebanon and warn of Iran's ongoing meddling in the internal affairs of the country. They seem to fear that that Iran's mullahs are about to instigate instability and chaos in Lebanon as they have done in Iraq, Yemen and Syria.

"The Lebanese people are dying," commented Lebanese social media user Marianne Mouzaya. "No medicine, no hospitals, no electricity, no water, and an almost non-existent purchasing power."

"Lebanese people feel despair about this situation, and they do not believe that anything good will happen soon," according to Ferhat Tutkal, an international affairs graduate student at the Lebanese American University. "The country suffers from a brain drain, and qualified people leave Lebanon for developed countries that offer a better life. Mass migration is also possible in the future if the crisis continues as it has. Such a situation may affect the balances in the region and cause other problems."

Egyptian writer Ali Masoud believes that the Lebanese have finally realized that Iran and its Hezbollah proxy terrorist group are leading Lebanon toward "humiliation, starvation and an unknown future."

Iraqi political analyst and columnist Farouk Yusef pointed out that "Lebanon today is in its worst phase. For many, there is no Lebanon. A large part of the international community is no longer able to deal with Lebanon as an independent, sovereign state. It is an Iranian protectorate. But Hezbollah sarcastically calls on the world to save Lebanon."

Yusef scoffed at the appeal of some Lebanese leaders to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states to rescue Lebanon and said that the request for help should instead be directed to Iran, which is directly responsible for the country's crisis.

"Lebanon will remain deprived of the means of life because Iran, which has tightened its control over the country, is determined to drive it toward annihilation," Yusef wrote. He said that if the Lebanese were aware that Hezbollah was using Lebanon as a launching pad to attack Israel and that they would end up without electricity, water or medicine, they would have preferred that Israel remain in their country.

Roger Edde, a Lebanese lawyer and president of the Lebanese Peace Party, warned that Lebanon will remain a "failed state" as long as it is "occupied" by Iran.

"There is no glimmer of hope in the horizon unless the Security Council declares Lebanon a failed state that is occupied by Iran and its tools," Edde stated.

Echoing the same sentiment, Lebanese social media user Rita Ballan accused Hezbollah of working to "perpetuate the [Iranian] occupation." According to Ballan, Iran and Hezbollah have taken Lebanon back to the stone age, and the Lebanese are now suffering from "isolation, deprivation and humiliation."

Abdel Wahab Badrakhan, a prominent writer and political analyst who previously served as deputy editor of the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat, said that Lebanon has "entered the stage of grave imminent danger, not only because the comprehensive collapse continues politically, economically and socially, but especially because the features of the Iranian takeover of the country are becoming clear and confirmed."

Badrakhan too believes that Iran and its Lebanese supporters have chosen "to prolong the financial-economic crisis to facilitate the handover of Lebanon to Iran."

The international community, he noted, has failed to realize that that Lebanon is about to fall into the hands of Iran.

Saudi writer Mishary Dhayidi holds Iran responsible for the unrest and instability in a number of Arab countries, including Lebanon. "What is happening in Iraq and Lebanon and the decline in public services and infrastructure -- electricity, fuel, food, medicine, security, and the dominance of the militias over the state, is because of the Iranian Khomeinist regime," he wrote.

He warned that the Biden administration needs to take note that the threat of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons was not the only problem.

"Iran is already very dangerous without a nuclear bomb," he argued. "The region is witnessing a state of chaos and agitation by fundamentalist forces, which threaten all Arab countries without exception."

Lebanese journalist Khairallah Khairallah said that Iran is using Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq as "regional cards" to pressure the Biden administration to return to the 2005 Iran nuclear deal and lift the sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic by former US President Donald Trump's administration.

"Iran believes that it has its pressure cards and that the US administration should yield to it," Khairallah cautioned. "The question remains how the international community will deal with the Lebanese situation."

When Khairallah and other Arabs talk about the international community, they are specifically referring to the Biden administration.

The Arabs appear clearly worried about the perceived apathy of the US and other Western powers towards Iran's scheme to extend its control to Lebanon. They seem particularly alarmed that Lebanon will meet the same fate as Iraq, Syria and Yemen -- countries that have been riven by years of civil war thanks to Iran's continuous efforts to export terrorism and the "Islamic Revolution" to the Arab countries.

Judging from the remarks of many Arab political analysts and columnists, the message they are sending to the Biden administration is that the mullahs in Tehran are doubly dangerous: they aspire not only to develop nuclear weapons, but also to occupy Arab states.

  • Follow Khaled Abu Toameh on Twitter


Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.

Source: https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/17600/lebanon-fall-iran

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Lebanon’s Collapse, and the Significance for Israel - Orna Mizrahi, Yoram Schweitzer


​ by Orna Mizrahi, Yoram Schweitzer

As the Land of the Cedars continues to collapse, Israel can no longer afford to sit on the fence. Jerusalem would do well to adopt a proactive policy, try to guard against Beirut’s falling into Iranian hands, and use all measures to weaken Hezbollah – and ensure that the organization does not choose military adventurism under cover of Lebanon’s internal developments

The ongoing deterioration of Lebanon's economy and the country’s political chaos have sharpened the dilemma of Israel’s new government as it formulates its policy on Lebanon. It appears that in any case, Israel should adopt a more proactive approach, rather than treating the negative consequences of events in Lebanon as preordained, especially in the extreme scenario of a total takeover by Hezbollah, which would turn the country into an Iranian sphere of influence, similar to Syria. Rescinding the sanctions against Iran following a possible return to the nuclear agreement by the United States may accelerate this scenario. At the same time, recent developments in Lebanon provide a potential opportunity for the IDF to deal a more substantial blow to Hezbollah's military capabilities, and quash the attempts to forge a new "deterrence equation" that includes shooting from Lebanon in response to clashes on the Temple Mount and elsewhere in Jerusalem.

Saad Hariri’s return on July 15, 2021 of his mandate to form a government in Lebanon reflects the downward spiral in the country's political system. Civilian distress has worsened, while the country experiences one of its worst-ever economic crises. Difficulties in earning a living have increased, and there is a severe shortage of basic consumer commodities: food, electricity, fuel, water, and medicine. Lebanon lacks the basic infrastructure that a country is supposed to provide for its people. The political system, which has been without a functioning government for a year, is almost completely paralyzed and is unable to take the decisions necessary to deal with the crisis. Lebanon's security elements, headed by the Lebanese army, which is also suffering from the economic distress, cannot operate effectively. Hariri's move likewise demonstrated once again the weakness and ineptitude of the rich and corrupt leadership of all of Lebanon's communities, including Hezbollah. This leadership concentrates mainly on maintaining its power and status, while refusing to make concessions for the benefit of the Lebanese people as a whole.

There is no solution on the horizon, and there are no prospects for external help: Western countries, which have despaired of a positive response to their demand for the formation of a government and implementation of reforms as a condition for aid, are considering the imposition of sanctions against the Lebanese leadership. Russia and China are willing to help, provided they are guaranteed a return on their investment. Nasrallah's hope of aid from Iran has yet to be fulfilled, in part due to fear in Lebanon that accepting such aid will prevent any possibility of obtaining broad international support.

An examination of the possible scenarios for developments in Lebanon provides no grounds for optimism. The most likely scenario right now is a prolonged crisis along the current lines, continued decline into complete collapse, and even a split in the country or the outbreak of a third civil war. Another extreme scenario is a total takeover of Lebanon by Hezbollah and the strengthening of Iran's grip on the country.

How might continuation of the crisis in Lebanon affect Israel? There are two main approaches in Israel to this question:

  • The primary one is that a collapse of Lebanon is bad for Israel: This approach, which reflects the assumption that Israel has an interest in a stable pro-Western Lebanon, argues that despite Hezbollah's dominance in Lebanon, it does not hold a complete monopoly on power. Any further decline in Lebanon's internal situation will strengthen Hezbollah, and is therefore liable to change the political balance in Lebanon to Israel's detriment, primarily in the longer term. Nasrallah's vision of turning Lebanon into another Iranian protectorate and an integral part of the Shiite axis will be realized. Already early in Lebanon's long economic-political crisis, Nasrallah argued that the Lebanese economy should be detached from the West, and should look east and develop ties with Iran, Iraq, and Syria. He explained that Lebanon's collapse would lead it into the warm embrace of Iran, and that Lebanon would eventually become another Iranian outpost in the region, like Syria.

  • The collapse of Lebanon is good for Israel: Those who take this approach, especially those who claim that Lebanon is already controlled by Hezbollah, believe that if the internal crisis in the countries gets worse, Hezbollah will be overcome by ailments (including a state of collapse), find it difficult to give its full attention to the conflict with Israel, and adapt a more restrained attitude to it. According to this line of thinking, even if Hezbollah is eventually moved to seize power and becomes the official hegemon in Lebanon – a step that it has scrupulously avoided until now because of the advantages in the status quo for preserving its independent military power and behind-the-scenes political influence on events in the country through its allies – this scenario is likely to serve Israel's interests, despite its disadvantages. Furthermore, in this scenario, which implies that the Lebanese state and Hezbollah are one, Israel's freedom of action and legitimacy for operations against Lebanon will be increased, especially in a military conflict or all-out war.

These different approaches on a collapsing Lebanon prompt different ideas on the policy that Israel should adopt. A belief that Lebanon’s falling into Hezbollah hands is positive supports a policy of non-intervention; furthermore, Israel's ability to influence events in Lebanon is very limited. Advocates of this policy argue that Israel should refrain from intervening in Lebanese internal developments, and should certainly not help Lebanon, other than through direct or indirect humanitarian aid, because any other aid will strengthen Hezbollah. Israel should therefore continue focusing its efforts on weakening Hezbollah.

The other approach holds that there is no absolute identity between Lebanon and Hezbollah, and that Israel's interest still lies in a stable pro-Western Lebanon. While Hezbollah is currently the strongest military and political power in Lebanon, not all Lebanese support the organization, and the severe crisis afflicting the country has increased criticism of Hezbollah because of its actions in the internal theater. Israel should therefore try to support efforts that seek a way of strengthening the power groups opposing Hezbollah whom it regards as positive in order to prevent a total Hezbollah takeover of Lebanon's state institutions and its population, with Lebanon becoming an Iranian protectorate. This policy, of course, does not mean abandoning the political and military efforts to weaken Hezbollah.

The Israeli government should update its policy on Lebanon according to a long-term perspective, and should consider the consequences of the collapse of the Lebanese state for Israel in particular, and for the region in general. Israel should adopt a proactive approach that regards the current developments in Lebanon as providing an opportunity to influence the country's future, rather than treating Hezbollah's dominance as preordained, especially in the extreme scenario of a takeover of the country by Hezbollah. This is not a recommendation for direct intervention by Israel in Lebanon’s internal affairs, similar to previous attempts that failed, or provision of direct aid to Lebanon. Israel's ability to provide aid is in any case limited, because most Lebanese perceive Israel as an enemy country. All of Israel's offers to aid the Lebanese people, including the offer by Minister of Defense Benny Gantz on July 6 to send humanitarian aid via UNIFIL, were rejected out of hand.

It is therefore necessary to formulate a policy that will support simultaneously Israel's two main interests that can still be advanced: the security interest in dealing with the threat posed by Hezbollah, and the interest in a stable and pro-Western neighbor on Israel's northern border.

In order to promote the interest of a pro-Western Lebanon free of dependence on Iran, Israel needs to spur its partners in the West. This refers mainly to the United States and France, who are involved in the efforts to provide aid to Lebanon, but also Israel's new partners in the Gulf. Israel should urge them to be more active in providing immediate aid designated for the Lebanese people, while demanding close supervision of the transfer of the aid in order to prevent its falling into the hands of Hezbollah and its supporters. At the same time, it is particularly important to coordinate with the United States the obstruction of the channels whereby Iran transfers aid to Hezbollah, if the sanctions against Iran are rescinded following an agreement on a return to the nuclear agreement. Continued strengthening of the Lebanese army is an important interest of Israel (without supplying it with weapons that are liable to jeopardize Israel's security), which has demonstrated until now that it is the sole entity capable of preserving internal order in the country. It is also important to consider ideas for expanding the international presence/involvement by parties that are not members of the Shiite axis (the United States and France on the one hand, and Russia, China, and possibly Turkey on the other).

These efforts should be pursued concurrently with the ongoing effort to weaken Hezbollah. This includes both political undertakings – condemning Hezbollah and consolidating its classification as a terrorist organization in the international theater – and military actions. In the military sphere, the deployment for a possible conflict on the northern border must be continued. In tandem, it is necessary to consider whether the crisis in Lebanon offers Israel an opportunity to deal a more substantial blow to Hezbollah's capabilities, and to act with more determination to defeat the effort by Hamas, Iran, and Hezbollah to forge a new "deterrence equation" against Israel that links clashes on the Temple Mount and elsewhere in Jerusalem to firing at Israeli territory from the north, as occurred during Operation Guardian of the Walls and in the shooting incident on July 20, following the violent clash on the Temple Mount two days earlier.


Orna Mizrahi, Yoram Schweitzer 

Source: https://www.inss.org.il/publication/lebanon-collapse/

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Can a good security fence stop a tidal wave? - Prof. Etak Zisser


by Prof. Etak Zisser

The economic collapse of countries around us, an atmosphere of security chaos, and mainly climate disasters that ravage peoples' sources of income will only increase the flow of labor migrants and refugees to Israel's doorstep.

The collapse of Lebanon as a country, which limits Hezbollah's freedom of action and forces it to focus most of its energy on its problems at home, hasn't led to quiet on the northern border. We've repeatedly witnessed infiltration attempts from Lebanon into Israel. Surprisingly, though, it isn't terrorists trying to enter Israel, but labor migrants seeking shelter and work in the Jewish state.

We can only assume that as the crisis in Lebanon worsens, attempts to infiltrate Israel will increase and the foreign labor migrants from Turkey or Africa will be joined by Lebanese nationals and even Palestinians living there.

Infiltration attempts by young labor migrants from Jordan are also a matter of routine –despite the fact that Israel allows thousands of Jordanians to enter Israel to work in hotels in Eilat. And finally, young Palestinians from Gaza are also trying to sneak into Israel, not to harm Israelis but to find work. After all, Israel is the only First World country that has a land border with a surrounding Third World, which can be reached on foot.

In the past, it was the border with Egypt that was open to tens of thousands of labor migrants from Africa, who trekked thousands of miles from Sudan or Eritrea, paid a fortune to Bedouin smugglers, and crossed virtually unimpeded into Israel. Someone in Israel, however, came to his senses, and a barrier was built along the border that has stemmed the tide of labor migrants along with infiltration attempts by Islamic State terrorists operating out of the Sinai Peninsula. And yet, the several years of ensuing quiet have been followed by increasingly slack security and maintenance along the border, which could lead to another migrant wave into Israel.

Israel's attractiveness to labor migrants, mainly due to its geographic proximity and accessibility, is relevant to several issues currently on the national agenda, among them the Citizenship law, easing of restrictions for the labor migrant community in Israel, and of course the question of the "right of return" which still looms large as a Palestinian demand and precondition for any future diplomatic agreement.

However, many of those involved in handling these matters are missing the point. For instance, the argument used to be that most Palestinians would not utilize the "right of return" and would prefer to stay where they live and, that therefore Israel should concede the issue by offering a symbolic gesture.

But there's no reason to assume that Palestinians – like any other inhabitant of the region seeking to immigrate to more advanced, developed countries in the West – won't jump at the opportunity if it falls into their laps. Not as part of a plan to eventually eradicate Israel, but as part of a fundamental human desire to improve their quality of life and offer a better future to their children. The Citizenship law is also a tool that many will seek to exploit to improve their situations, as will be each eased restriction Israel offers to labor migrants or Palestinians seeking residence.

The economic collapse of countries around us, an atmosphere of security chaos, and mainly climate disasters that ravage peoples' sources of income will only increase the flow of refugees to Israel's doorstep. This isn't about nationalistic conflict, hence diplomatic avenues of action opposite our Arab neighbors won't solve the problem.


Prof. Etak Zisser

Source: https://www.israelhayom.com/opinions/can-a-security-fence-stop-a-tidal-wave/

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An Evaporating Edifice - Bruce Bawer


by Bruce Bawer

The stunning truth about Islam’s origins.


[Order the new revised and expanded version of Robert Spencer's Did Muhammad Exist? HERE.]

Unlike other religions, declared the nineteenth-century French scholar Ernest Renan, Islam “was born in the full light of history.” Renan’s point, of course, was that whereas, for example, Jesus was unknown during his lifetime to the great world beyond Galilee and Judea, and the story of his life was set down, in various versions, only decades after his crucifixion, Muhammed was in his own lifetime a public figure of unparalleled eminence - the prophet of a new religion, the commander of an army that conquered much of the Arabian peninsula in the name of that religion, and the founder of an Islamic empire that, over the century or so after his death, would spread his religion from the western end of the Mediterranean to what is now India, and eventually threaten on more than one occasion to engulf the whole of Europe. 

But Renan was wrong. Over the past century, while archeologists, textual scholars, and others have examined the life of Jesus from every conceivable angle - and established beyond any reasonable doubt that the man whose ministry is recounted in the gospels really existed - the relatively few experts on Islam who’ve ventured to scrutinize with open minds the established narrative about Muhammed have discovered major problems with almost every aspect of it, so that questions have arisen, over time, as to whether this historical figure of the first consequence - a man whose rich and adventurous life story had long been recounted in colorful detail (and whom Time magazine, in 1992, named the most influential person in human history) - had ever actually existed at all.

It’s a breathtaking thought, and at first glance it seems outlandish, audacious, impossible. For the overwhelming majority of Muslims, even to entertain the notion that Muhammed might be a fictional character is verboten. Most scholars of Islam don’t want to go near it either, for fear or their lives, or (at the very least) their careers. But the few who’ve dared to do so have emerged with some extremely sensational findings. In 2012, Robert Spencer summed up what had been discovered so far in his remarkable book Did Muhammed Exist? An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins. Since the scholarly work in this area has continued without pause - and has produced even more extraordinary evidence that the historical account of Muhammed needs, at the very least, to be radically revised - Spencer has now issued a revised and expanded, and even more devastating, version of his book.

And what a book it is! So you don’t care about Islam? Well, as always, the first answer to that has to be: Islam cares about you. And the second answer is that you don’t have to be interested in Islam to find this book absolutely compelling. If you enjoy mysteries, this book tells the supremely thrilling story of a diverse band of canny sleuths - archeologists, linguists, historians, theological experts - who’ve spent much of their careers trying to solve what may be the biggest mystery ever. To make your way through this book, chapter by chapter, is to feel that you’re seeing the cover being pulled back, layer by layer, on one of the most massive deceptions in the annals of humankind.

Let’s start at the beginning, with the officially received story of Muhammed’s life. Born in Mecca around A.D. 570, he was, in his early years, a merchant, Mecca being a major trading center on an important commercial route; then, in 610, he wrote the Qur’an, which he said had been dictated to him by the Angel Gabriel. He became a prophet, began accumulating followers, and, between 620 and 630, led an army that conquered most of the Arabian peninsula in the name of his new religion. After his death in 632, his successors continued to capture territory and to convert the subjugated peoples to the faith of the Qur’an, which taught them to pray toward Mecca. 

So, at least, goes the story. In fact, historical research has shown, first of all, that seventh-century Mecca was not a trading center at all; it was a dusty, remote little town of no particular importance. Also, most mosques didn’t face Mecca until the late ninth century; before that, most of them faced Petra in what is now Jordan. Moreover, while there are ample records of the battles fought by the Arab army - there is no doubt about the historicity of its conquests - scholars have searched in vain for any reference by contemporaries to Muhammed, Islam, or the Qur’an, which were supposedly the impetus for all the warmongering. 

On the contrary, coins minted between A.D. 650 and 680 in the conquered Arab territories actually bore the image of the Cross - and no reference to Muhammed or to anything else that we associate today with Islam. Yes, some coins from the second half of the seventh century do feature the word “Muhammed” along with the image of the Cross - a combination incomprehensible under Islam. How to explain this? As Spencer notes, “the figure on the coin could have evolved into the Muhammad of Islam but was not much like him at the time the coin was issued.” Or it could be that Muhammed, which can be translated as “the praised one,” is in this instance not a name but a title, referring not to the prophet of Islam but - yes - to Jesus Christ. 

Similarly, an Arabic inscription on the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, completed in A.D. 691-2,  is today routinely translated as “Muhammad is the servant of God and His messenger.” But it makes more grammatical sense to read it as “praised be the servant of God and His messenger” - a reference, again, not to Muhammed of Mecca but to Jesus of Nazareth. As for textual evidence, not a single surviving seventh-century document contains the word “Muslim” or “Islam” - a bizarre finding, given that by the year A.D. 700 Arab forces had conquered the entire Middle East and beyond, supposedly in the name of the new faith. Muhammed’s name does appear in one Christian chronicle dated A.D. 690, but it doesn’t mention the Qur’an, and its account of the religious beliefs of the Arab warriors makes it sound very unlike the Islam we know today.

The history textbooks record that Islam had become established across the Arabian peninsula by the time of Muhammed’s death in 630. Yet it’s impossible to find any record of contemporaries describing the conquerors as Muslims - instead they called them  “Ishmaelites,” “Saracens,” “Muhajirun,” and “Hagarians.” Not until the reign of the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik, which lasted from 685 to 705, do references to “Muslims” and the Qur’an begin to appear in the historical record, along with “accounts of the heroic life and exemplary deeds of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam” (in other words, the hadith, a veritable library of stories about Muhammed that are considered secondary only to the Qur’an as sacred texts of Islam, and that, Spencer and his sources propose, were concocted by a range of players for a range of self-serving reasons). And the first mention of Muhammed’s death doesn’t turn up until more than a century after it’s said to have taken place.

In short, the more the evidence accumulates, the more it looks as if the soldiers who subdued the Arabian peninsula, supposedly in the name of Islam, were not Muslims at all but pagans who’d never heard of Muhammed or the Qur’an. Which means that the prophet who we think of as having been their commander, and the book that we think of as having provided them with the inspiration for their military triumphs, were both late seventh-century creations, products of the imagination of Abd al-Malik and others in his circle. And why were they created? The theory, at least, is that they were a means of providing the subject peoples of the fast-growing Arab empire - who were Zoroastrians and adherents of various Christian heresies - a sense of common confessional identity. As Spencer puts it, the empire “needed a common religion - a political theology that would supply the foundation for the empire’s unity and secure allegiance to the state. This new prophet needed to be an Arab, living deep within Arabia. If he had come from anywhere else within the new empire’s territory, that place could have made claims to special status and pushed to gain political power on that basis.”

For centuries, school children have been taught that Muhammed and the Qur’an gave rise to the triumph of the Arab empire. Is it instead the case that the triumph of the Arab empire led to the invention of Muhammed and the Qur’an? Can it be that, in Spencer’s words, “the empire came first and the theology came later”? If Islam was in fact born out of political necessity, it would certainly help explain, as Spencer points out, why it’s always been a uniquely political faith that instructs its adherents “to be the instruments of divine justice on earth” and that contains “martial and imperial” elements that are inextricable from its theological core. And if you think it seems unlikely that a Big Lie on this scale could never have worked, recall what the Democrats accomplished with the Russian collusion hoax - and ponder what they might have been able to pull off in an era of mass illiteracy and zero mass media.   

Robert Spencer is quick to underscore that this book is the product of decades of discoveries by many different individuals. But by bringing this material together so cogently and coherently and putting it into the hands of an audience of general readers, Spencer has made an invaluable contribution to knowledge. This is, to be sure, only the latest addition to the long bookshelf of volumes about Islam that he’s produced over the last two decades, thereby providing an urgently needed corrective to the deceptions and distortions of glib fabulists like Karen Armstrong and Tariq Ramadan. Still, none of Spencer’s books is potentially more consequential than this one, which offers readers a singularly spectacular experience: to read it is, quite simply, to see the mighty edifice of Islam, in all its glory and grandeur, slowly and silently vanish before one’s eyes. 


Bruce Bawer

Source: https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/2021/07/evaporating-edifice-bruce-bawer/

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Hunter Biden's art dealer said he wanted to be the 'lead guy in China' in 2015 - Houston Keene


by Houston Keene

The White House has faced scrutiny over Hunter Biden's art dealings

Bongino blasts Hunter Biden's art sales: He's the MVP of grifting

Fox News contributor Dan Bongino argues President Biden and his son are 'trolling' the American people with the art sale venture.

The art dealer representing the president's son has longstanding ties to China and said in 2015 that he wanted to be the art world's "lead guy in China."

Georges Berges, who is representing Hunter Biden as he ventures into the art world, has talked about his business dealings in China in the past, but his reported ties could pose an ethics issue as he sells Biden's art to anonymous buyers.

A representative for Berges previously told Fox News that the sales of Biden’s art will be kept "confidential." The White House has said they have an ethics plan in place to ensure the president's son doesn’t know who buyers are, though Hunter has raised eyebrows with plans to attend art shows where potential buyers will be in attendance. 


Berges said in a 2015 interview with Resident that he wanted to be the art world’s leader in China.

"My plan is to be the lead guy in China; the lead collector and art dealer discovering and nurturing talent from that region," Berges said. "I plan to find and discover and bring to the rest of the world those I consider China’s next generation of modern artists."

He also said that that he believes "China's economy is transforming the global economy and everything is changing because of a rising China," and that he was fascinated by "cultural impact" China is "having on the world."

"Cultural power is real power. That is the reason America continues to be the capital of the world, because of its influence on culture for generations and on an unrivaled global level," Berges also said. "And I think more and more the Chinese are beginning to understand that cultural innovation will power their future cultural influence across continents."


In a 2014 interview with Quest magazine, Berges noted that he travels to China "three or four times a year" and that, at the time, he had a "solid group of about 25 collectors, most of them overseas."

Berges' reported ties to China and the anonymity of the buyers could pose a potential ethics problem, especially with the younger Biden’s prodigal relationship with President Biden.

Anonymous buyers could have ties to the Chinese Communist Party and could attempt to buy influence in the Biden administration through the art purchases.

Berges has also been quoted in the Chinese state-run newspaper China Daily for his involvement in a philanthropy event with three Chinese artists, whose pieces Berges said "are not just pretty objects to create, but also challenge the locals' perceptions of what China is and the institutions they live with."

Additionally, in 1998, Berges was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and "terrorist threats," which were later dismissed after 90 days in jail and 36 months probation.

Berges was also accused of defrauding an investor, Ingrid Arneberg, of half a million dollars and subsequently sued in 2016. Berges countersued Arneberg, settling the suit two years later.

Representatives for Berges and Biden did not return Fox News’ requests for comment. The White House did not provide comment to Fox News.


Houston Keene is a reporter for Fox News Digital

Source: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/hunter-biden-art-georges-berges-china

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Cleveland’s Baseball Team Dishonors the Indian It Was Named For - Robert Spencer


by Robert Spencer

One of the most idiotic of the Left’s assumptions is that sports team nicknames are intended to insult and demean.


Many, many years ago, long before any of you who are reading this were born, and long, long before Major League Baseball went woke, pulled the All-Star Game out of Atlanta for not toeing the Left’s line, and made race-baiting Communist agitprop a permanent feature of its website, I learned about a man named Louis Sockalexis. Sockalexis, a great baseball name if there ever was one (later announcers would have loved to report about how he “socked” one into the stands), is largely forgotten today, although he has made a few headlines in the last few days because the Cleveland Indians, a team that bore that name in his honor, has now dishonored him by changing its nickname, so as not to insult Indians. Yes, friends, it’s a topsy-turvy world, and it isn’t getting any saner.

Have you heard of Louis Sockalexis? Some of our great-grandfathers marveled at his feats. He was a Penobscot Indian from Maine who became a major league player in 1897, hitting .338 in 66 games for the old National League Cleveland Spiders. He generated a great deal of fan enthusiasm, but indifferent to or unable to overcome stereotypes, he succumbed to alcoholism and had washed out of the major leagues by 1899. The Spiders amassed the eye-watering record of twenty wins and 134 losses that year, and went out of business right after the season’s end, opening up an opportunity in 1901 for the new American League. It was not until 1915, however, that Cleveland’s American League team began calling itself the Indians in honor of Sockalexis. He hadn’t played in the major leagues in a decade and a half, but was newly recalled to fans when he died an untimely death from tuberculosis in 1913. The Society for American Baseball Research notes that in January 1915, Cleveland team owner Charles Somers, “perhaps recalling the all-too-brief period of excitement that Louis Sockalexis had brought to Cleveland in 1897, dubbed his team the Indians.”

And so Indians they were for 106 years, but when the 2022 season starts (if major league baseball hasn’t succumbed entirely to wokeness by then and decided to dispense with actually playing the games and instead award wins and losses on the number of players of color minus the number of Trump supporters), the Cleveland baseball team will be calling itself the “Guardians,” after a couple of statues on a nearby highway bridge. The statues are known as the Guardians of Traffic. If Cleveland’s baseball solons were so determined to rename the team after traffic markers, given their abject capitulation to wokeness, they should have gone with the Cleveland Yield Signs.

In any case, so much for Louis Sockalexis: he goes the way of Uncle Ben, Aunt Jemima, and any and all non-white mascots and trademarks. But it is just another manifestation of our Age of Absurdity that anyone would think that team nicknames were designed to demean and insult, instead of honor, the person or thing from which the name is derived. Does Cleveland’s baseball team hate Cleveland’s Guardians of Traffic that have now replaced Sockalexis? Of course not. And the idea that they do is just as absurd as the claim that the old name degraded Native Americans.

Yet the claim is, of course, commonplace. Crystal Echo Hawk, executive director of a group called IllumiNative, which claims to be dedicated to fighting misrepresentations of Native Americans, hailed the name change: “It is a major step toward righting the wrongs committed against Native peoples and is one step toward justice.”

Can all this get any more absurd? Now the “Cleveland Indians” name was a major wrong and injustice against Native Americans? It’s too bad Louis Sockalexis isn’t around to take Crystal Echo Hawk aside and gently discuss her First-World Problems with her. But he isn’t, and now it is abundantly established and taken for granted on the Left that to have a sports team named after you is the ultimate insult. Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans take note: apparently your nicknames mean you hate bears, lions, and residents of the Lone Star State. Get on that, and fast. The only acceptable nicknames now are those derived from groups that our woke masters have decided are perfectly all right to hate: the Cleveland Trumpers. The New York America-Firsters. The San Francisco Cis-Het White Males. And so on. After all, if we’re going to be so insulting as to name a team after a group, then let’s go for the worst insults of all. 


Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 23 books including many bestsellers, such as The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)The Truth About Muhammad and The History of Jihad. His latest book is Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins―Revised and Expanded Edition. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.

Source: https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/2021/07/clevelands-baseball-team-dishonors-indian-it-was-robert-spencer/

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IDF hits Hamas targets in Gaza in response to arson terrorism - Shahar Klaiman , Daniel Siryoti and Lilach Shoval


by Shahar Klaiman , Daniel Siryoti and Lilach Shoval

Incendiary balloons spark several fires in communities near the volatile border, breaking a three-week lull in Hamas' cross-border arson campaign. Israel also cuts the fishing zone off Gaza's coast from 12 to six nautical miles.

Israeli warplanes struck several targets in the northern Gaza Strip, the IDF announced early Monday, saying it was responding to the launches of incendiary balloons that caused at least three blazes in southern Israel.

The IDF said it had struck a Hamas military infrastructure including a base with several structures. It said the base was near civilian areas that included a school but gave no further details. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The airstrike came several hours after the incendiary balloons were launched into Israel by Hamas-affiliated terrorists. Photos and video posted on social media showed them launching the balloons into Israel. On one of them was written the message: "Time is running out."

Arab social media outlets also showed videos of Hamas terrorists in Gaza firing rifles into the air at IDF aircraft. It was also reported that an IDF drone crash-landed inside Gaza.

Arab outlets also reported Israeli strikes in eastern Khan Yunis in southern Gaza and attacked an open field in the al-Sudaniya area.

Israeli media reported at least three fires set in southern Israel, breaking a three-week lull in Hamas' cross-border arson campaign.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has compared the incendiary balloons to rocket fire and has ordered airstrikes following previous instances as well.

In an initial response, the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories unit, the Israeli defense body that oversees Palestinian civilian affairs, announced Sunday that Israel was cutting the fishing zone for Gazan fishermen in half, from 12 nautical miles to six nautical miles. Reducing the fishing area is a common Israeli response to attacks emanating from Gaza.


Shahar Klaiman , Daniel Siryoti and Lilach Shoval

Source: https://www.israelhayom.com/2021/07/26/idf-hits-hamas-targets-in-gaza-in-response-to-arson-balloons/

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Monday, July 26, 2021

'Ben & Jerry's will regret the day they boycotted Israel' - Yair Altman


by Yair Altman

Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center announces plans to assert control of Ben & Jerry's trademark in Judea and Samaria, arguing that by pulling its business from the area, Unilever has lost the right to protect the brand.


Will US anti-BDS laws cause financial meltdown for Ben & Jerry's?
An Israeli flag flies outside of Ben & Jerry's factory in southern Israel, July 21, 2021 | Photo: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand

The decision by ice cream giant Ben & Jerry's to pull its business beyond the Green Line means that under US law its parent company, Unilever, has lost the right to protect the brand's trademark in Judea and Samaria, the Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center announced over the weekend.

The NGO said it plans to apply for trademark licensing of a similar brand under the name "Judea and Samaria's Ben & Jerry's" with the explicit intent of rivaling the original.

Last week's decision by Ben & Jerry's, widely panned as a capitulation to the anti-Israeli boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, was slammed by lawmakers from across the political spectrum, as well as by Jewish groups worldwide.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett vowed to fight the decision "aggressively," saying, "There are many ice cream brands, but only one Jewish state. Ben & Jerry's decided to brand itself as the anti-Israel ice cream. This decision is morally wrong and I believe that it will become clear that it is also commercially wrong."

Unilever's CEO Alan Jope stressed last week that the multinational consumer goods company, whose Israeli branch among the five leading consumer products companies operating in the country, was "fully committed to our business in Israel."

In a letter to Unilever, Shurat Hadin asserted that it plans to assert ownership of the brand in Judea and Samaria, citing us legislation that under US law, in order for Unilever to preserve trademark protection for the Ben & Jerry's brand name against use by other entities, it must demonstrate full intent to conduct business in a particular area.

By announcing that the company does not intend to operate in Judea and Samaria, the British conglomerate has forfeited the right to claim said trademark as its own, the NGO argued.

Shurat Hadin chief Nitsana Darshan-Leitner told Israel Hayom that "Unilever is no longer in a position to enforce its trademark in these areas.

"These are our new weapons and approach in the war against BDS: Anyone who stops selling their products in Israel will find that we have taken over their trademarks and rights. Ben & Jerry's will regret the day they boycotted Israel. "

Brooke Goldstein, executive director of the Lawfare Project and co-founder of the End Jew Hatred movement, said last week that the sheer size of Unilever opens it up to possible significant financial penalties.

"By virtue of its wayward subsidiary, Unilever – a massive international conglomerate – risks potentially crushing financial consequences in terms of its ability to receive investments from, or do business with, the majority of US states," she said.


Yair Altman

Source: https://www.israelhayom.com/2021/07/25/ben-jerrys-will-regret-the-day-they-boycotted-israel/

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Will Russia try to close Syrian airspace to further Israeli airstrikes? - Seth J. Frantzman


by Seth J. Frantzman

Is Russia sending a message to Israel or to the US, or is someone else trying to create controversy? What is the goal of Iran here – or the Syrian regime or other regional powers?

Russia could be moving to pressure Israel to stop airstrikes in Syria. Reports began to surface this weekend, beginning with an article at London-based Asharq al-Awsat that cited a “well-informed” Russian source.
The report was carried in Turkey and other media in the region with interest. According to these reports, Russia might even strengthen the Syrian regime’s air defenses.
What do the reports say? The Russian source hinted at the possibility of “closing Syrian airspace” to Israeli planes, Asharq al-Awsat reported. This comes in response to allegations that Israel has “intensified their raids in the past two days against Iranian and Hezbollah sites in northern and central Syria.”
Russia released two statements in the wake of a raid “targeting a research center in the countryside of Aleppo, and the other on a site for Iranian forces to be stationed in Al-Qusayr, near Homs,” the report said.
“This is directly related to the talks that were launched with the United States following the first summit that brought together presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden last month,” the Russian source told the Arabic website, adding that “Moscow was calculating its reactions in the past because Tel Aviv [Jerusalem] is coordinating all its movements with Washington, while the Russian communication channels with Washington were cut off, and it appeared, from the current contacts with the American side, that Moscow obtained confirmation that Washington does not welcome the continuous Israeli raids.”

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with then US Vice President Joe Biden during their meeting in Moscow March 10, 2011. (photo credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER NATRUSKIN/FILE PHOTO)Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with then US Vice President Joe Biden during their meeting in Moscow March 10, 2011. (photo credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER NATRUSKIN/FILE PHOTO)

The report highlights a complex puzzle. “The Israelis felt that the air defenses in Syria had been activated, and the fact that practically all the launched missiles had been destroyed, indicates a fundamental change in the mechanisms for dealing with this file and that Israel’s aviation has not since entered the Syrian airspace and is carrying out attacks from the ground,” the report said. Russia supposedly provided the Syrian regime with “modern air defense.”
The source went on to claim that Russia’s demands might involve closing off “all possible targets” inside Syria. The author notes that in the past, Moscow did not object to attacks on Iranian targets in Syria. It has “run out of patience,” the article said, but then also quoted the Russians as saying they are actually not impatient. This hints that high-level talks with the US have some impact on the issue of staying silent about Israeli airstrikes.
But it is not clear from the article what is really going on. Why Moscow would reveal to a newspaper that it heard the US does not “welcome the continuous Israeli raids” is curious.
This “impression left space for Russia to act more freely in supporting Assad forces in Syria with more advanced anti-missile systems and know-how, to make them more capable of shooting down Israeli armaments,” the report said.
A Turkish media said: “Israel has been targeting Iran-linked military targets in the war-torn country’s regime-held areas with airstrikes without entirely acknowledging doing so. The Israeli strikes have also been repeatedly criticized by the Syrian regime ally Russia.”
Meanwhile, reports said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had asked Israel to provide Russia with information on any Iranian threats in Syria so that it could deal with them.
“If Israel is really forced to respond to threats to Israeli security coming from the Syrian territory, we have told our Israeli colleagues many times: If you see such threats, please give us the information,” Lavrov was quoted as saying by Russia’s Sputnik media.
Add to this a third detail noting that airstrikes carried out earlier this year “were carried out with intelligence provided by the US, a senior American intelligence official told the Associated Press.”
This leaves many questions: Is Russia sending a message to Israel or to the US, or is someone else trying to create controversy between Russia and Israel? What is the goal of Iran here – or the Syrian regime or other powers in the region?
It is known that Gulf countries, as well as Egypt, Iraq and Jordan, likely want the Syrian regime to be stabilized and stronger so that it can rejoin the network of Arab states in the region, after having been kept out in the cold since 2011’s Arab Spring.
In short, there are many interested parties eager to see Syria return as a normalized state, and thus the free-for-all of airstrikes by various countries in the beleaguered country may end. This would include a desire to see the US and Israel reduce airstrikes and also have Turkey stop destabilizing northern Syria.
It would also likely mean wanting Iran to stop its entrenchment. Tehran may have reduced forces in Syria slightly in recent years. However, Iran has a network of facilities, such as Imam Ali base near the Iraqi border and the T-4 base. It also backs militias, and Hezbollah has been operating freely in Syria.
THE OTHER interesting messaging here relates to Moscow’s apparent view that the US also may be shifting its views on the airstrikes. It was widely reported in January that the US was backing Israeli airstrikes in Syria. The reports that the US wanted to work more closely with Israel in Syria date from the period of former US president Donald Trump’s administration and were tied to key figures in the administration who appeared to approve of Israel’s policies in Syria, including Mike Pompeo, John Bolton and US envoy James Jeffrey.
The key here is that Washington believed Israel’s “war between wars” campaign was designed to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria and weapons trafficking to Hezbollah, and it was important for US policy. In years past, it was reported that Iran moved ballistic missiles to pro-Iranian militias in Iraq and drones to Syria that threaten Israel and that it sought to move precision-guided munitions to Hezbollah. Iran also tried to move the 3rd Khordad air-defense system to Syria in April 2018.
There have been tensions before. Syria shot down a Russian military plane in September 2018, mistaking it for an Israeli jet. This angered Moscow, and Jerusalem sent officials to discuss the crisis. Russia at the time hinted it would send Syria the S-300 air-defense system.
There were also reports at the time that Russia would try to keep Iranian forces away from the Golan Heights as the Syrian regime retook areas nearby. Hezbollah did set up sites near the Golan and sought to launch drones against Israel in August 2019.
The tensions with Syria have also led to other incidents, such as errant Syrian air-defense missiles being fired wildly. One landed in the Negev in April, and in 2017, Syria fired an S-200 at Israeli planes that flew over Jordan.
In November 2019, Moscow revealed alleged Israeli airstrikes, claiming Israel flew over Jordan during a strike on Syria. In January 2019 and February 2020, Russia also expressed concern to Israel about airstrikes in Syria.
In light of all this, the reports on July 24 about Russian views on Israeli airstrikes in Syria could either reflect a policy change or more of the same rhetoric as in the past. It could also be messaging to the US and Iran.
Pro-Iranian militias are increasingly operating in Syria and acquiring land and basing. A member of the Fatemiyoun Brigade, a unit of Afghan Shi’ite fighters that works with Iran in Syria, was reportedly killed in recent airstrikes, according to Al-Hadath. Iran has been relatively quiet about this, but pro-Iranian militias in Iraq have been upping threats to the US and its forces in Iraq and Syria.
This could all be tied together. In the past, pro-Iranian militias in Iraq have accused Israel of airstrikes, illustrating that the issue of airstrikes in Syria or the “war between wars” campaign is not just about Iran’s role in Syria, but rather Iran’s role in the wider region, too. 


Seth J. Frantzman

Source: https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/will-russia-try-to-close-syrian-airspace-to-further-israeli-airstrikes-674811

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